Gourmet Live for iPad

Ill-fated Gourmet magazine was reborn last week as Gourmet Live for iPad. Unlike other Condé Nast titles, Gourmet now exists as an iPad app only. I’ve been using it this afternoon, and I believe that two features borrowed from the gaming world, achievements and rewards, will ultimately set Gourmet Live apart.

Gourmet magazine shut down in October of last year, along with Cookie and Modern Bride. Ad pages had been declining and an analysis by McKinsey & Company recommended that Condé Nast cut 25% from several magazine budgets. Just over a year later, the closings were announced. Those with subscriptions extending beyond the cessation of publication 1 would receive Bon Appétit.

In June of 2010, it was announced that Gourmet would be reborn as the iPad app Gourmet Live (scroll down a bit). It was finally released on September 23, 2010.

Gourmet Live’s content is presented in a grid; tap any title to begin reading. The inaugural issue includes a welcome video and features on cocktails, apple cider beignets and high-class tailgating. There’s also an interview with actress Julianne Moore 2, an article on Mario Batali and Joe Bastainich’s Eataly, 3 complete with gorgeous slide show, and a wonderful piece by author Geoff Nicholson. Finally, Kate Nerenberg describes President Obama’s influence on DC’s restaurant scene. 4

Articles are presented in portrait orientation only, so you can’t flip a story on its side. Photos won’t zoom or pinch unless otherwise indicated. Scroll up to read and when you’re done, tap “Close this Story” to return to the grid. In this way, navigation is super simple: You’re either in an article or you’re not. There’s only one way to hold the iPad and only one way to “turn pages.” By contrast, Condé Nast’s WIRED for iPad offers several ways to navigate, many of which aren’t immediately obvious.

The writing and photos in Gourmet Live are stellar, as anyone who knew Gourmet would expect. What’s unexpected is the most fun. As you read certain articles, you unlock “achievements,” and are thusly rewarded. For example, when I got to the bottom of the tailgating article, and only when I got to the bottom, a bell dinged and a new image popped up on the screen, informing me that I had earned the grilling achievement. My reward was bonus content. In this case, 9 grilling recipes and photographs.

I’m excited to try the grilled herbed potatoes and Indian-spiced mushrooms, but I’m even more enthused by the fact that it feels like I just got all of this stuff for free. Sure, those recipes would have been included in a print version of this issue, but Gourmet Live ramps up the fun by allowing me to “unlock” access. It feels like a game and got me inordinately excited. Kudos to the Gourmet Live team for implementing such an entertaining idea.

The rewards are yours to keep and get their own storage area; you can browse them and pull them up at will. 5.

Note that all of this is unavailable until you register by entering your Twitter and/or Facebook login creds. Once you’ve unlocked an achievement, the app will publish a tweet or wall post saying as much. Also, you must complete registration if you want to add a story to your collection of favorites.

For me, this issue has been a lot of fun. In a way, I’m glad Gourmet was forced to evolve, and I’ve been a subscriber for years. No pricing or subscription options have been announced, and I’m eager to see what they’ll be. Right now, WIRED for iPad is $4.99 per issue. There are rumors of a subscription plan brewing in Cupertino, but for now it’s just a rumor.

Here’s to everyone involved in Gourmet Live: Congratulations, good luck, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

  1. Including yours truly.
  2. The huge photo of Mrs. Moore alone is worth the download. Yowsa.
  3. Sweet Mary do I want to visit this place. Anyone have room and board in NYC for your friend Dave?
  4. Spoiler: he’s unwittingly created the culinary equivalent of Oprah’s book club. Once the Prez dines at a given restaurant, the foodies follow.
  5. There are two in this issue. I won’t divulge where the other one is.

The HP Slate video

Earlier this week, YouTube user x313xkillax 1 posted this video of what appears to be a HP Slate prototype. I questioned if it was real but the folks at Engadget seem convinced. If so, Apple can rest assured that the iPad is under no immediate threat.

To be fair, it’s a prototype and not necessarily representative of the finished product. With that in mind, let’s explore the video.

The body

This Slate looks like an iPad wearing a case. The textured back features the HP logo and a camera, while the front features a black bezel and glass display. It appears shorter and less wide than the iPad, but also thicker (using the reviewer’s hand for scale).

Five buttons appear along the device’s edge: volume, keyboard, CTRL-ALT-DEL, power and home. They’re ugly and detract from the overall appearance.2 Plus, I wonder how frequently users will accidentally press them. The iPad can be held in any position, and I assume the Slate can as well (we only see it in a single landscape orientation). If so, all of that turning would require careful hand placement. Otherwise, it’s “Oops! I just called up the keyboard.” or “Oops! I just turned the volume down.”

Among the five buttons there are two standouts. The first is the CTRL-ALT-DEL key. At first I found it hilarious. “This machine will freeze up on you,” HP seemed to be saying, “so were going to put this key right here.” I think of the original Nissan Xterra, which came with an integrated first aid kit. “You will hurt yourself and others while driving this car.”

Instead, I think Marco Arment got it right. The CTRL-ALT-DEL key is a regrettable concession:

“This is comical, but the actual likely intention is less fun than killing hung apps: it’s probably to get through the Windows NT-style “Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete to log on” screen, a relic from 1993, which is necessary on tablets presumably because Microsoft’s internal structure, politics, and fragmentation precluded the Tablet PC team from getting the Windows Account Security Or Whatever team to make an exception to this procedure for this edition of Windows 7.”

Also troubling is the keyboard button. To use the software keyboard, you must push this button to produce it. Likewise, you must press it again to put the keyboard away, or else it just sits there, hogging 2/3 of the display area. Why the keyboard can’t appear/disappear as the user taps in and out of text entry fields is a mystery. It’s the same behavior we saw from another Windows-based tablet. Having to produce and dismiss the keyboard every time you want to use it will get old very quickly.

I’ve also got to mention the stickers. PC manufactures feel compelled to slap stickers on their hardware that tout its features and its innards. I’m not the only one who dislikes this practice. At least this Slate’s stickers are silver and blend in with the body.

Finally, I timed the device’s boot time. It took 33.5 seconds for the Slate to go from off to a useable state. My iPad took 21.8 seconds.

The UI

A finger tap places a cursor on the screen. Notice the slight delay between the tap and the cursor’s appearance (you can see gear spin for half a second). Since a touch simply moves a cursor around, you might as well just use a stylus.

The Slate flat-out refuses to scroll three times. Towards the end of the video, the user has already adjusted his behavior to make it work; he uses slow, deliberate strokes to initiate a scroll. Also, note the barely-responsive Internet browser. Can’t wait to get my hands on that sweet piece of software.

Finally, it’s running Windows 7, which is a fine OS, but not suited to this application.

Hopefully things will improve before this thing hits the market. HP recently decided to push this device on the enterprise market and not home users. The latter group will, I assume, benefit from HP’s acquisition of Palm. A tablet running webOS is something I’m eager to see.

This incarnation of the Slate is not.

  1. That’s an upstate New York accent if I’ve ever heard one. I’m guessing he’s from the Rome/Utica/Vernon area.
  2. Yes, the iPad has physical buttons, but you can bet Apple means to change that.

FaceTime’s future

In episode 20 of The Bro Show, Myke, Terry and guest Patrick discussed something I want to expand upon. Namely, the future of FaceTime, the mobile video calling solution that Apple introduced with the iPhone 4. It’s certainly the device’s marquee feature.

Myke 1 made an astute observation: if you consider the television ads that have aired so far, you’ll notice that Apple hasn’t advertised the iPhone 4 per se. Instead, it’s advertised FaceTime. FaceTime is the product and the iPhone 4 is the delivery system. Of course that will change, but how and when? Here are my thoughts.

FaceTime for Mac

During The Bro Show, the guys suggested that iChat will be replaced with “FaceTime for Mac.” I agree and expect it to be a part of Mac OS 10.7. 2 It will allow those without an iPhone 4 to enjoy a FaceTime call with those who have one. Just consider the huge number of machines Apple has shipped with iSight cameras built in. To implement it, Apple can expand upon the video conferencing features that are already a part of iChat.

FaceTime for iPod touch

This is a logical evolution of the touch and I expect to see a demo at Apple’s September 1 press event. The addition of a front-facing camera should necessitate a redesign of the super-thin touch to accommodate the hardware. It will be interesting to see if Apple goes with a flat back and, if so, what it will be made of. As the guys pointed out in The Bro Show, there’s no need for a wrap-around antenna as the touch is Wi-Fi only.

The iPod nano is capable of video, but FaceTime will be restricted to the touch. The nano has long been the best-selling iPod model (as the mini was before it), and the low price is primarily responsible. Plus the screen is too small and adding the camera and Wi-Fi hardware would necessitate a redesign that would turn it essentially into a touch.

FaceTime for iPad

Here’s something that many people are looking forward to, myself included. However, I don’t expect to see it this year. Look for an announcement in January.

3G

You can blame this restriction on AT&T, but I think they’ll soon make this available. Now that the unlimited data plan no longer exists, 3 data-hungry customers switch from being a network-taxing hindrance to a new cost center. Do you plan on making lots of FaceTime calls? Then opt for the higher-priced data plan.

The main problem with FaceTime right now, aside from requiring Wi-Fi, is that both parties must have an iPhone 4 to participate. By significantly expanding the pool of participants, Apple will finally bring the “Jetsons phone” to the masses.

  1. I think it was Myke. Correct me if I’m wrong.
  2. With support for old school text chat.
  3. Except for those who were grandfathered in on plans from 1st-generation iPhones.

Predicting iPad apps

Before the iPad was announced, I imagined which iPhone apps would translate beautifully to an Apple tablet. Some ideas made it and others didn’t. Here’s a look at what I wished for and what we got.

Panelfly

My favorite comic reader on the iPhone is begging for a place on the iPad. The team has teased it, but so far it’s not in the store. The iPad is technically idea for comics. The size, large display and pinch-and-zoom allow the reader to enjoy a full-page rendition and fine detail equally. There are good readers in the store like ComicsDC and Marvel, but honestly I’m waiting for Panelfly. The UI is beautiful and the “smart zoom” works wonderfully.

Musee Du Louvre

When I visited the Louvre two years ago, the front desk offered audio tours. For a few bucks, you can rent a little device that provides commentary and directions for moving through the many exhibits. I imagined an app that could be downloaded to a tablet before arrival similar to Musee Du Louvre for iPhone and iPod touch. You could use it to identify the exhibits you wanted to explore, gain background information and otherwise prepare yourself for visiting such a massive museum.

Unfortunately, that app has not gone universal, nor as a separate iPad version been released. There are a number of museum apps in the store (Musees de Paris is a nice one), but I haven’t found one that’s a thorough virtual guide. Feel free to speak up if you have.

Geocaching

Geocaching is the international game of hide-and-seek that desperate parents like me use to get our kids outdoors. The iPhone app is fantastic, and I imagined that at tablet’s large display would only improve things. Unfortunately, the iPad doesn’t support true GPS, and geocaching requires precision. So that one’s a bust.

At Bat

Major League Baseball fulfilled my every wish with At Bat for the iPad. In January I imagined full-screen streaming of games, live stats on the player at the plate and scores from around the league. All of that works beautifully in At Bat for iPad. Some of the features I wish for, like pass-and-play mini games and live chat with other fans didn’t come to be, but that’s fine. No one likes feature creep.

CNN App for iPhone

CNN App for iPhone is a super news app for the iPhone and iPod touch. In January I imagined a larger-screen version, but it hasn’t happened. That’s worked out, though, as I enjoy getting news in the iPad with USA TODAY and the New York Times. I’d still welcome an iPad-optimized version of that CNN app, but I’ve found other enjoyable news apps for the iPad.

Among the group of misses, I’m most eager for Panelfly for iPad. I’m glad that the developers are taking the time to get it right, but the 10-year-old comics fan inside me is getting antsy.

Reading books on the iPad: iBooks

This is the third article in my series exploring reading on the iPad. Here’s part 1, newspapers and part 2, magazines.

I became a reader in the Henry Bemis sense in high school. What started with the Sunday funnies escalated to comic books and eventually “chapter books” as we called them. In high school I read Stephen King’s Thinner and loved every word. It sealed my fate as a reader.

Today my appetite is the same but the venue is changing. Once a novelty, ebooks and ereaders have become inexpensive, easy to use and increasingly popular. Last month, Amazon announced that Kindle ebooks are outselling hard covers by as much as 50%. While the iPad is more of a full-featured computer than a dedicated reader, it certainly competes for your book-buying dollar.

In order to be worthwhile, an exploration of the iPad as a book reader must include the apps from all of the big players. This series will include everything you need to know about using readers from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and more, as well as my own experiences and thoughts on each. We’ll start with Apple’s iBooks.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad and iBooks app in January, comparisons to the Kindle and Nook reached the boiling point. “It’s a Kindle killer!” the fanboys cried. “The iPad sinks the Nook!” they wailed. They were vocal. They were vehement.

They were wrong.

The Kindle, Nook and iPad are very different devices. Specifically, the Nook and Kindle are dedicated ereaders, for the most part, while the iPad is a computer that happens to have ereader software. Comparisons of the devices is unfair, so I’m going to compare reader apps available for the iPad only. This post isn’t about the Nook or the Kindle. It’s about iBooks.

What is iBooks?

Despite the potentially confusing name, most iPad users understand that iBooks is Apple’s ereader software. You can use it to read and annotate books downloaded from Apple’s iBookstore, which is accessed from within the app itself. Additionally, you can wirelessly synchronize bookmarks and annotations between the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone versions of iBooks to pick up reading where you left off. Finally, you can use iBooks to upload PDFs to your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. We’ll explore the iBookstore in a bit. First, let’s look at the bookshelf.

Reading and buying: How-to and overviews

Much like Clark Kent and Superman, iBooks has two major roles (minus all of the costume changes): as a reader and as a store. Before we explore the store, let’s look at the experience of reading a book. We’ll do so with the free copy of A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh that’s bundled with the application.

The Bookshelf 1

Where do most people store books? Other than atop any convenient flat surface. On a bookshelf, of course. Apple has adopted that motif in iBooks. When the app is launched, you’ll see a beautiful shelf that Apple hopes you’ll fill with iBookstore purchases.

Across the top of the shelf are six buttons:

  1. Store – Tap this to “flip” the bookcase over and access the iBookstore
  2. Books – iBooks has two shelves, actually; one for books and one for PDFs. Use this button to view the shelf of books
  3. PDFs – Likewise, use this button to view the shelf of PDFs
  4. Icon View – The four squares on this button will represent your books and PDFs on the shelf by their cover art
  5. List View – Tap the three lines on this button to replace the bookshelf with a simple list of your books or PDFs
  6. Edit – Enter edit mode to delete books or PDFs you no longer want

By default, the books are listed in the order in which they were downloaded, with the most recent acquisition first. However, you can re-order them. Here’s how.

While in icon view, tap and hold on any book’s cover. You’ll see it slightly increase in size. Once that happens, you can drag it to where you’d like it to say (the other books will “scoot” out of the way). Simply drop it in place.

List view presents several options (above). At the bottom of the screen, you’ll see buttons labeled Bookshelf, Titles, Authors and Categories. Tap each to sort your books by those criteria. For example, tapping Authors sorts your books by author.

Reading

Anyone who has read a book will find the iBooks experience rather foreign. First of all, it feels different. You’re holding 1.5 pounds of metal and glass, after all. There’s no “new book smell” (some of you know what I’m talking about). You can’t feel the pages or fold a corner over. Also, the iPad is more fragile than a paperback, so you’ll hesitate before tossing it into a bag or bringing it to the beach as you would a paperback.

None of this is bad, just different. You’ll probably enjoy reading on such a sleek piece of hardware. You feel like a bookish version of George Jetson or Agent 007.

To begin reading a book, simply tap it. It flies towards you as if hurled by a poltergeist and then opens. If you’re opening a book for the first time, you’ll notice a bit of thoughtfulness on Apple’s part. It skips the title page and table of contents and presents you with the very first page of content. You’re free to flip backwards and explore those pages if you like (more on turning pages later), but I appreciate Apple’s decision to skip them for me.

If you have opened a given book before, you’ll return to the last page you viewed.

What you see depends on how you position your iPad. When in portrait orientation, you’ll see one page at a time. While in landscape, you’ll see two. Both positions display several icons. Here’s what they mean.

  1. Library – Tap this at any time to return to the bookshelf
  2. Table of contents – Tap this to jump to the table of contents (more on that later)
  3. Title In the center of each page is the book’s title. It doesn’t do anything, so don’t bother tapping it
  4. Brightness – Tap the brightness icon and a slider appears. Move it from left (darker) to right (brighter) to adjust the brightness of the display
  5. Text options – There are several text options to choose from. You’ll find two size options, six fonts, and a toggle to enable a sepia or black-and-white them
  6. Search – This super-useful function lets you search the entire book for any instance of a word or phrase as well as Google and Wikipedia
  7. Bookmark – Tap to drop a red bookmark on the current page before you close the app
  8. Progress tracker – See how far along you are in a given chapter 2

They can all be dismissed by tapping anywhere on the page. To bring them back, tap again.

If the book you’re reading isn’t mind-numbingly boring, you’ll want to turn pages. iBooks gives you two options. The first one is fancy. To move forward, touch the right-hand side of the page, “swipe” it to the left and enjoy the pretty page flip animation. To go back, swipe from left to right.

Alternatively, you can tap the left-hand side of the page to go back, or tap the right-hand side to go forward 3

Notes on notes and highlights

If you typically read with a highlighter or a pen in hand, Apple has you covered. It’s easy to make annotations in iBooks, and you can even wirelessly synchronize them to your other devices, like the iPhone and iPod touch. Here’s how it works.

First, tap and hold over a bit of text. A small menu of options will appear. Namely, Dictionary, Highlight, Note and Search. The Dictionary option pops up a dictionary entry for the selected word, as you probably guessed.

Apple has devised a clever way to add highlights. When you’ve selected a word as described above, you’ll notice its highlighted in blue with a “handle” on each end. To capture the entire sentence or phrase you’d like to highlight, drag each of the handles so that the blue covers the target sentence or phrase. Finally, select Highlight from the options menu. You’ll see the yellow “marker swipe” appear.

Writing a note is just as easy. Again, select the word, sentence or phrase you’d like to annotate. Select Note from the options menu and a pad of “sticky notes” appears. Type your note on it and then tap anywhere outside of the note when you’re done. A smaller version will appear in the margin of that page.

You can easily jump to any highlighted passage or note from the table of contents screen. There you’ll see a button labeled Bookmarks. Tap it to see a list of all the bookmarks you’ve placed, passages you’ve highlighted and notes you’ve written. Tap any one to jump right to it.

Thoughts

I’ve read one book on the iPad and am now on my second. The experience has been mostly positive. For starters, the price is right. Most books are cheaper than their paper counterparts. Second, it’s very nice to have several books with you and ready to go at any time. Carrying 8 books in my bag would be a hassle, but it’s easy to carry the slim iPad.

I’ve found the display to be very legible and bright. Yes, it’s not so great in direct sunlight, as glare and reflections wreak havoc on the glass. But I rarely read outside, so it’s not that big of a deal. Plus, a patch of shade typically solves the problem.

Finally, it’s just fun! The iPad feels futuristic and solid, and using it to read is like something out of a Ray Bradbury novel. The fun factor can’t be denied. Of course, the fun can’t start until you’ve bought a book, so let’s examine the iBookstore.

The iBookstore

Feel the wheels of commerce churn as you enter Apple’s iBookstore, the place where you’ll buy books to read with iBooks. To get there, tap the Store button in the upper left-hand corner of the book shelf. The shelf “flips over” to reveal the store.

Right away you’ll see the rotating banner advertising the books that Apple wants you to notice. Most of these are new entries, best sellers or other features. Below that is the New and Notable section, which highlights recent releases. Some more graphics follow those entries while the final section features books in a rotating category. One week it might be cook books, the next crime novels, and so on.

To examine any book, tap it. A new window pops up with a lot of useful information. You’ll find the book’s cover art, author and title. A brief description is also presented, as well as any reader reviews.

To buy a book, simply tap its price. Then enter your Apple ID and watch as the book rises from the store’s shelf, hovers as the bookcase turns back around and then comes to rest among your collection. A progress bar tracks its download, and the cover will bear a “New” banner until you being reading.

Of course, the iBookstore lets you try before you buy. A free sample is available for every book in the store. When you’ve got a book’s info window open, you’ll see a button labeled “Get Sample.” Tap it to download a brief portion of that book, typically one chapter. When you’ve read it to the end, you’ll be prompted to purchase the rest.

Since the App Store was first introduced, Apple has perfected the impulse purchase. You can whip out an iPhone or an iPod touch and buy an app in seconds. The iBookstore works the same way. It’s very easy to buy a book while sitting in your jammies all cozy at home. Even the convenience of Amazon is eclipsed by the iBookstore’s instant gratification. Within 30 seconds of buying, you’ve begun reading. We’re living in the future!

Tips

Here are a couple of tips to help you get the most out of iBooks. First, set up alerts. If you love a certain author, you can receive email updates about anything new s/he has had added to the store. To do this, scroll down to the bottom of the iBookstore and tap “My Alerts.” A new window will appear. Tap “Manage my alerts” to set things how you’d like.

Next, it’s pretty easy to find free books in the iBookstore. First, tap Browse at the bottom of the screen. Next, tap Free for a full list of all the freebies in the store.

There you have it, a thorough look at iBooks, Apple’s electronic bookstore and reader for the iPad. It’s fun and full of the delightful surprises that Apple products so enjoyable. Books are easy to buy, inexpensive and look tremendous on the iPad’s huge display. All in all, a great  way to read books on the iPad.

This is the third article in my series exploring reading on the iPad. Here’s part 1, newspapers and part 2, magazines.

  1. Tip: Place your finger on the bookshelf, then pull down and hold to reveal the “hidden” Apple logo
  2. Tip: Tap and hold on the Progress Tracker to quickly jump to a particular page or chapter
  3. Tip: You can fix it so that tapping either side will turn the page forward. To do this, select iBooks in the Settings app. Tap “Tap Left Margin” and select Next Page.

Windows 7 tablet vs. iPad

Here’s a video of a Windows 7 tablet and an iPad performing similar tasks side-by-side. I couldn’t help but notice 9 ridiculous things while watching.

1. Dig that silky smooth pinch-and-zoom while “Googling” on the Windows machine.

2. Why don’t web pages fit the screen? Every one runs off the top and bottom. It’s good that the Windows tablet loads the pages first, because you’ll need that extra time to resize the page. Hopefully with that super smooth pinch-and-zoom.

3. The keyboard’s transparent background lets the busy wallpaper peek through. The result is ugly visual clutter.

4. Which YouTube (or “You tube!”) layout do you prefer? On the right we have an orderly grid. On the left is the typical YouTube mess.

5. The Windows tablet requires you to dismiss the keyboard when you’re done with it. The iPad hides it automatically when it’s no longer needed. For example, at the 1:18 mark, both users finish typing and begin a search. The iPad puts the keyboard away while the Windows machine lets it continue to hog 1/4 of the screen real estate.

Note again the herky-jerky pinch-and-zoom.

6. I’m no fan of Apple’s Notes app, but I am a fan of uncluttered simplicity. Look at the rows of minuscule icons at the top of the Outlook screen vs. the wide open space of Notes.

7. Watch the Windows device repeatedly refuse to pinch-and-zoom in the Google Earth app.

8. Feature creep! The Windows tablet is as thick as a corned beef reuben to accommodate all of the stuff that’s been crammed into it. Two USB ports, SD card slot, a trackpad (why does it need a touch screen and a trackpad?)  and more dot the edges.

9. The Start Menu. The best part of this video comes when the Windows user tries to accurately click the teeny, tiny text targets of that old Windows favorite, the Start Menu. I don’t know if zooming is possible here, but it ought to be. In the meantime, the iPad easily loads Angry Birds because its icon didn’t require a Start Menu hunting expedition, was easy to recognize and responded to the first tap.

I understand that the machine in this video probably isn’t a finished product, so there may be improvements. Still, I wouldn’t tout it as an iPad killer just yet.